The family caregiver plays a key role in supporting the very fabric of Canadian society. The most recent Census data tells us that 28% of all Canadians provide unpaid care to a family member or friend. If you are reading this article, chances are you are or know someone close to you who is a family carer.
Today there are more seniors over age 65 than children under age 14. Not only are we living longer, but adults over 100 years of age are also the fastest growing age group. Today’s life expectancy is 80 years for men and 84 years for women. Women are living longer and many find themselves widowed after looking after their partner. But what if you don’t have any family around?
There is a plethora of information available yet navigating the system isn’t easy. Last week I was trying to access hospice services on behalf of an elderly gentleman. He was not a client but his bank teller had received permission and she called the office and asked if I could assist. I called the fellow and he sounded so alone and scared that I knew I wanted to and needed to assist him. I knew where to look online for the information I needed and so I called this government funded resource and after providing his address, I was redirected to the appropriate (or I least I was told) office. Long story short, it took 3 more calls for me to finally get to the right person who insisted on asking me questions to which I did not have the answers (what was his diagnosis, prognosis, specialist, family doctor and date of birth). Again I explained that I did not know this gentleman but was simply trying to connect him to home based palliative care services. Finally I had to very firmly request that the intake worker on the line take his phone number (which is all I had in addition to his name and address) and to call him directly. I was so frustrated. I can’t imagine how this ailing gentleman would have been able to navigate the system on his own. We all need an advocate and help from time to time. Our health care system is a maze and is continuously changing. Hiring an advocate/case manager may be the answer, but only if you want to save yourself time, aggravation and a headache.